How MobileMe Saved My Life! And other cool things about MobileMe!

No, it didn’t push me out of the way of an oncoming train or defibrillate my heart but it did put me back in control after a cataclysmic, by my standards, event.

Picture this scenario, you’re attending a professional conference by yourself in a city you’ve never been to. You have a busy schedule, which includes meetings with numerous colleagues to discuss important business opportunities.

All of the information necessary to accomplish your objectives is stored in your iPhone. All of a sudden, you realize that your iPhone is gone – lost or stolen! What do you do?

This very situation happened to me. Read on to find out how it all ended…

MobileMe is Apple’s “cloud” computing service that stores all of your most vital information on Apple’s servers and keeps your iPhone in sync with your Mac or PC.

Additional features include the Gallery, for sharing photos and videos and iDisk, an online storage solution.

MobileMe was formerly .Mac ( .Mac was mostly useful to Mac users only). .Mac’s ability to sync calendar appointments, contacts and email accounts with Apple’s servers alleviated any anxiety of losing precious information in case of a cataclysmic hard drive failure, which can happen, albeit rarely, even to Macs.

In addition, you received a fantastic user experience, which was attributable to the tight integration of applications like iWeb, iPhoto and iMovie that allowed you to upload websites, photos and videos to share with family and friends and 10 GB of offsite storage space. 

MobileMe added a wireless sync feature that keeps your data current on your iPhone and computer anytime changes are made on any of your devices. Email, Contacts and Calendar information can be accessed and modified while your iPhone, Mac and/ or PC application counterparts are updated to reflect your changes in short order.

You can access MobileMe from any browser that supports current web standards such as Safari and Firefox. The behavior of MobileMe simulates a desktop experience with interactive web applications with your AddressBook, Calendar and Email readily accessible.

You can upload photos, videos, podcasts and websites to MobileMe. Apple simplifies this “one-click” process with integrated options built in to its popular iPhoto, iMovie and iWeb applications that come with every new Mac as part of the iLife suite.  You can also upload photos from your iPhone to MobileMe’s Web Gallery to share with anyone who has access to a web browser.

The 10GB online storage space on .Mac was doubled to 20GB for MobileMe users. You can upload important files for offsite storage in the cloud. This is especially useful if you travel because those important files essentially can travel with you.

It also functions as an offsite backup in case you lose files on your hard drive. Apple will soon add the ability to transfer large files to anyone through MobileMe if they cannot be emailed because of their large size.

Another really neat function available only to Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) users is something called “Back to my Mac.” This handy feature lets you access your Mac from a remote computer to access files, application, data, etc. Both computers have to be running Mac OS X 10.5 for this function to work.

A much publicized laptop burglar identification from the stolen laptop using Back to My Mac demonstrates how useful this feature can be!

So back to my story…

When I got my iPhone 3G about 6 months ago, I was already a .Mac subscriber and I was automatically upgraded to the MobileMe service. I did not have any outage in service as was widely reported in July after its launch and all of the features I use work as advertised.

But the really exciting part for me was the over-the-air-synchronization of my contacts, emails, calendar appointments and Safari bookmarks between MobileMe and my iPhone. This particular feature proved to be a lifesaver!

I traveled to Seattle to attend a professional conference that included daily activities of meetings, lectures and dinners that all revolved around my professional field and associated business issues. Lo and behold, while standing in a crowd I reach over to check the weather forecast on my trusty iPhone when I discover both belt clip and phone are nowhere to be found!

After fruitlessly searching my whereabouts from the previous hour and leaving contact information (my name and hotel) with local businesses, I felt a helpless, sinking feeling of loss. I returned to the hotel and reviewed my options. I could access my contact, email and scheduling information through MobileMe using the hotel’s computers.

But that would leave me without a communications device in case any plans needed to be modified. Well, I took a cab to the nearest Apple store, about 20 minutes away, bought a new iPhone (full price-ouch), and entered my MobileMe information through the Mail application.

I activated the sync option and in one minute had all my contacts, emails, calendar appointments and browser bookmarks on my device as though I had never lost it.

Funny, just the evening before, I was discussing this very issue with some of my colleagues over dinner. Most of them bought iPhone 3G’s and found no plausible reason to justify the cost of the MobileMe service ($99 for the year; $8.25 per month).

While there may be other alternatives that are less expensive or free, the reliability (greatly improved since launch and further improved through the recent Mac OS X 10.5.6 update released yesterday) and integration of MobileMe with the iPhone and my Mac makes the monthly fee well worth it.

Moreover, the service is not delivered by a shady, fly-by-night company. Apple and its stellar support will be around for a long time to come. I wonder what those same colleagues would do if they found themselves in a similar situation. Maybe look to borrow my iPhone to make a call?

What services or applications do you use for syncing or backing up your devices?

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